-the early nineteenth century

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


By 1834 there were one hundred and thirty-four cotton mills within the Glasgow area and the development of these large economic units was just one result of the Industrial Revolution. With the harnessing of the power of coal (for producing steam), the scene was set for building large factories which had no need to be close to streams for their motive power. Thus the city expanded quickly, large factories were built and workers herded into tenement houses close to the factories in which they worked. Cotton now took the place of tobacco as the city`s great source of wealth but the fundamental difference between the two commodities was that processing cotton into cloth required the labour of many local people. New industries were built up alongside the cotton mills and these included bleaching and dyeing; in turn, these encouraged the construction of chemical works by industrialists such as Charles Tennant to provide their raw materials.

Much of the city`s production was sent overseas and this led to the enlargement of the quays in Glasgow to the extent that by the middle of the nineteenth century there were four kilometres (two and a half miles) of quays in the city. The River Clyde had been considerably deepened in order to allow ships to reach the city centre and this, together with the demand for new ships, led to shipyards being erected beside the river (see picture). Previously, the city had relied on vessels built in the Americas or in England but now many of the Glasgow-owned vessels could be constructed locally. Indeed, such was the expansion of shipbuilding in Glasgow and in other Clydeside towns that in 1851 Clydeside accounted for eighty-five percent of Britain`s total tonnage. Scotland`s iron industry was begun in 1759 when the Carron Company began its operations near Falkirk, and Central Scotland`s coal and ironstone industries were able to provide the ironworks with these two vital raw materials; in turn, these factories supplied iron, and later, steel, to the shipyards and engineering factories. Although many of these large enterprises were spread throughout the industrial West of Scotland, Glasgow had important coalmines within its boundaries and a large ironworks (known as `Dixon`s Blazes`) was established in 1839 by William Dixon at Crown Street in the Gorbals; it was only demolished in the early 1960s.

This article is based on the guidebook "The Glasgow Guide".

Once upon a time this part of the river would have been incredibly busy with all sorts of ships. Today, this stretch of water near the city centre is quiet but it still has a number of links with shipping. The quaysides are still there, the former Renfrew Ferry (built in 1953) is now a floating entertainment venue and the ornate structure in the centre of the picture is the Clyde Navigation Trust Building. The trust was responsible for the organisation of the traffic on the river as well as being in charge of the wharves.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the city had grown into a busy, noisy, smelly and very unhealthy place. The factories produced copious amounts of noxious gases and liquid waste was often poured into the rivers or left to soak into the ground. Solid waste was piled up near the factories. This was the heavy price that Glasgow`s citizens paid for the growth of heavy industry and one family of manufacturers - the Overtouns - were involved in a national scandal because of the dangerous working conditions in their factory.
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The nineteenth-century expansion
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The eighteenth century
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History of Glasgow

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